Cardinal Touring War-Torn Communities in CAR to Instil Hope among “abandoned” Villagers

Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga blessing an elderly man. Credit: ACN

The Cardinal in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been going around the country, engaging with members of communities, who have been abandoned, assuring them of his closeness.

Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga told Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), that being close to the poorest of the poor in the country that has been ravaged by decades of violence is the only way to assure the people that God has not abandoned them.

Armed groups have been waging attacks against innocent civilians in CAR since a violent takeover in 2013.

During a visit to the ACN headquarters in Germany, Cardinal Nzapalainga spoke about the situation in CAR, noting that though the current government is not threatened, and the fear of a military coup that existed in 2020 is no longer present, the society “has terrible wounds and needs rebuilding.”

“I travel throughout the country to places where there is not a single official to be seen. The roads were already bad before the war, but now they are impassable,” the Cardinal said in a Wednesday, December 13 report.


He added, “There are armed gangs in the streets, which seriously obstruct traffic and can be dangerous, but I trust in the Baraka (Arabic for “heavenly blessing”) and up until now, it has not left me in a lurch.”

“And on my travels again and again, I see abandoned village communities. These people feel that nobody cares about them. They die like animals, without even a health center. They must be reminded that they are children of God. Therefore, I take off my cardinal’s robe, make myself small, travel through the land, and say to them, ‘Even if people have forgotten you, God has not forgotten you,’” he said.

The Archbishop of Bangui noted that the government of CAR is doing everything to restore calm in the country, saying, “In defense of the government, it must be said that our country is as big as France, and it is difficult to control such an area. Apart from that, there are still areas that are controlled by the rebels.”

He said that despite their hardships, the people of God in CAR are friendly and go on with their affairs with joy.

“I recently visited Ouadda, a small town in the country’s northeast. People gave me a very friendly welcome and even organized a party for me. They were happy because they realized that they hadn’t been abandoned, and because while I was there, they didn’t have to observe the curfew imposed by the rebels,” the member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CSSp.) also known as the Spiritans or Holy Ghost Fathers said.

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Cardinal Nzapalainga narrated that he encountered one of the leaders of a rebel group in the country who tried to block his way, and added, “The same evening, the parishioners prayed for us; the mayor, the pastors, and the Imams came to stand up for me.”

“The next day, when I told the local rebel leader that I wanted to go, he at first blocked my way. But then, ten minutes later, he said I could go. I was relieved, but I rebuked him: I reminded him that he was a leader, that his word counted, and that therefore, he couldn’t just say anything. I was taken to his superior, and there he suddenly became like a small child that has been caught doing something,” the Cardinal said, and added, “There are many people like that here. They have no formation, so they make up for it with muscles.”

The Spiritan Cardinal said that insecurity in CAR has rendered some parts of the country inaccessible even for teachers who have left some schools unattended.

“In Central Africa, we have such a young population! So many young people. However, during the unstable years since 2013, they have not been going to school, and even now, education is very patchy. Teachers often do not want to go into remote districts, because they are afraid of the rebels,” he said.

According to the Cardinal, teachers in the country are also badly paid. He noted that the only people who get paid in the country are the military because “you don’t want to be on bad terms with them.”


“Teachers, on the other hand, only have chalk. So, they often get their salaries late,” he said, and continued, “Teachers who live far from the big cities must undertake long and dangerous journeys to collect their salary, because there are no local banks. Some spend two-thirds of their salary on the motorbike taxi. And the journey lasts up to two weeks, so their classes can only be taught for half the month.”

The country also faces a shortage of trained teachers, the Cardinal said, noting that parents sometimes offer to step in to teach in schools.

“Parents are locally recruited and trained to take over lessons. They only earn what the pupils’ parents want to give them. And that leads to unfair treatment of the children, as paying parents expect that their children get good marks in return,” he said.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.